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UFC 298 Press Conference: ‘Old Man’ Alexander Volkanovski and Ilia Topuria’s Fiery Exchanges Set Stage for Thrilling FW Title Bout

Published 02/15/2024, 11:39 PM EST

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UFC 298, the second PPV of the year for the promotion, is gearing up to be an incredible card! The event will be headlined by a featherweight title clash between champion Alexander Volkanovski and challenger, Ilia Topuria. Both men are determined to prove their mettle inside the Octagon, with Topuria displaying his confidence by already claiming the title of ‘UFC World Champion’ on his social media account!

Other notable fights on the card include a middleweight bout between former champion, Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa, a welterweight bout between Geoff Neal and Ian Garry, and a bantamweight bout between Merab Dvalishvili and Henry Cejudo. During the pre-fight press conference, the fighters took the opportunity to capture the fans’ attention and build even more excitement for the highly anticipated event! Here’s all that transpired.

Alexander Volkanovski shows up as ‘Old Man Volk’ and Ilia Topuria channels Conor McGregor 

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‘The Great’ chose to arrive at the press conference in his ‘Old Man’ persona, referencing a recent commercial where he addressed the comments about his age hilariously. The outfit drew a massive response from the crowd who were thrilled to see Volkanovski arrive in the unexpected getup!

Nonetheless, his opponent Ilia Topuria wasn’t impressed as he claimed that Volkanovski had arrived “already dressed for retirement,” highlighting his intentions to send ‘Volk’ into the sunset. The back-and-forth continued with Volkanovski staying in his ‘Old Man’ persona and exclaiming that he would teach the young man a lesson in the cage on fight night.

The Australian pointed out that Topuria’s antics reminded him of another UFC star known for his press conferences, Conor McGregor. He claimed that Topuria is a “Conor McGregor wannabe” by highlighting ‘El Matador’s use of the Irishman’s famous ‘red panty night’ phrase.

But the challenger remained unfazed as he claimed that he was aiming to usher in a new era of mixed martial arts and proclaimed himself the future of the division. He also addressed the crowd by telling them that all the people who “hate” him will become instant fans after UFC 298.

Later on in the press conference, Volkanovski was questioned about his plans for the future, and whether they included another attempt at moving up to lightweight and chasing the 155 lbs title. ‘The Great’ responded by stating “I still want that double champ status,” highlighting his determination to achieve the rare distinction of holding titles in multiple weight classes. Now let’s look into the ‘wannabe’ allegations against Topuria.

Topuria and McGregor’s uncanny similarity highlighted

Ilia Topuria was also asked to state his thoughts on the comparisons between him and Conor McGregor. Both fighters have a remarkable similarity in their records before their first shot at the UFC featherweight title. McGregor, who took on Jose Aldo for the belt in 2015, was 6-0 in the UFC and on a 14-fight winning streak at 27 years of age, identical to Topuria’s record before UFC 298.

‘El Matador’ revealed that he only has one goal in mind when he enters the cage against ‘Volk’ and that is “to kill or be killed,” indicating his determination to etch his name into the history books.

Questions were also directed at Volkanovski inquiring about his intentions for the upcoming UFC 300 card and the Australian stated that if the UFC is still working on a main event for the card, he can “go save the show there as well.”

Topuria, on the other hand, was asked if he feels any pressure from always having to fight on the road against a hostile crowd and if he will ask Dana White about holding a card in Spain. He replied by stating, “Next time all the crowd will be on my side in a fight done in Spain…”

‘El Matador’ also channeled Conor McGregor’s ‘Mystic Mac’ persona as he proclaimed his prediction for the fight by revealing, “I’m gonna take his lights out in the first round.” As the event approaches, the tension between the fighters continues to rise, setting the stage for an unforgettable night of action inside the Octagon! Let’s explore what’s more to come.

Merab Dvalishvili chooses to represent Mexico in front of Henry Cejudo 

‘Triple C’ is set to take on Merab Dvalishvili in a bantamweight clash that may have consequences for the title picture in the division. Cejudo, coming off a loss against Aljamain Sterling in a shot at the belt at UFC 288, believes that a win over Dvalishvili will propel him back into contention for the title.

He stated, “A win over Merab gets me back into the title picture.” His comments indicate his focus on retaining his championship glory once again and the high stakes involved in this fight. However, his opponent, Dvalishvili, is determined to end Cejudo’s dreams of a title shot as he stated that he will walk away victorious at UFC 298.

In an attempt to get inside Cejudo’s head, Dvalishvili took the opportunity at the press conference to state, “I’m going to make the Mexican people happy because Mexican people need to represent Mexican pride” and pulled out a Mexican flag and displayed it to the crowd. He even claimed that he was going to make Mexico proud, causing Cejudo to respond by saying we will see what happens on February 17th.

‘Triple C’ was also asked about his intentions for the 145 lbs title, to which he responded by revealing that while he is currently focused on the challenge in front of him in the form of Dvalishvili, the ultimate goal was to secure titles at bantamweight and featherweight which he described as “still the mission.”

As Cejudo keeps his focus on the present challenge while maintaining his long-term goals of securing titles across multiple weight classes, fans eagerly await the outcome of this anticipated showdown on February 17th. Especially when the card is stacked with more than one exciting bout!

Paulo Costa is greeted with cheers and claims he wants to KO Robert Whittaker 

In the middleweight division, Paulo Costa is making his return to the Octagon after a hiatus since 2022 when he secured a decision victory against Luke Rockhold. He is set to take on former middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker at UFC 298. And during the press conference, ‘The Eraser’ revealed his gameplan for the fight against ‘The Reaper.’

He stated, “I’m gonna knock this guy out…and run for the title shot next”, highlighting his intentions to take on the newly crowned middleweight champion, Dricus Du Plessis, soon.

He was also asked about the overwhelmingly positive response he received from the crowd as he walked into the press conference, to which he responded by revealing that he focuses on sharing the same energy with the crowd and giving them an “exciting fight” come fight night! He stated, “The people’s main event is going to happen before the real main event…”

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His bold statements and commitment to delivering an exciting fight resonated well with the crowd, as evidenced by the positive response at the venue. As the anticipation builds for the showdown between Costa and Whittaker, fans can expect nothing short of fireworks when these two middleweight contenders step into the Octagon. Meanwhile, not everybody on the card is lucky enough to get such backing from the fans.

Ian Garry takes on the crowd as he highlights his intention to “silence” the haters

At the UFC 298 press conference, Garry was greeted with a chorus of boos by the crowd when he was asked a question about his thoughts on the proceedings. He responded by stating, “Every single one of you is talking about me… I’m gonna get my hand raised Saturday night and I’m going to silence every single one of you.”

The welterweight clash between Ian Garry and Geoff Neal was originally set to occur at UFC 299 but due to undisclosed reasons, the fight was moved to UFC 298 instead. Garry, a rising star in the UFC’s welterweight division, aims to cement his position in the rankings by taking on the veteran Neal, who is currently ranked #8 in the division, higher than Garry’s rank at #10.  

Garry’s bold declaration at the press conference, in the face of boos from the crowd, reflects his unwavering confidence and determination to make a statement in the Octagon. With both fighters poised to put everything on the line, fans can expect an electrifying showdown!

UFC 298 press conference wrap-up

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The pre-fight press conference provided a glimpse into the intense rivalry between Volkanovski and Topuria, with both fighters exchanging heated words and making bold predictions for the outcome of their bout. Meanwhile, in the bantamweight division, Henry Cejudo and Merab Dvalishvili are set to collide in a showdown with potential title implications, further adding to the anticipation surrounding the event. 

Additionally, the return of Paulo Costa to the middleweight division, as he takes on former champion Robert Whittaker, promises to deliver fireworks inside the Octagon. With rising star Ian Garry facing off against veteran Geoff Neal in a welterweight clash, the stage is set for an action-packed evening of fights. 

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Subsequently, the main card will kick off with a clash between Roman Kopylov and Anthony Hernandez in the middleweight division. Kopylov is looking to break into the rankings by securing a win against the #15-ranked Hernandez! In conclusion, as the fighters make their final preparations and tensions reach a boiling point, fans eagerly await the spectacle that is UFC 298.

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Written by:

Dushyant Patni

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Dushyant Patni is a UFC writer at EssentiallySports. Dushyant brings 8 years of professional writing experience to his coverage of MMA at ES. This literature graduate excels in the coverage of both MMA-related and off-topic subjects.
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Edited by:

Joyita Das